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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > TV > The Virginian – The Complete First Season (1962 – 1963/aka The Men From Shiloh/Timeless Media DVD)

The Virginian – The Complete First Season (1962 – 1963/aka The Men From Shiloh/Timeless Media DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Episodes: B



Among the many hit Westerns that have not found new audiences, The Virginian has been one of the less-discussed hits, despite a 9-season run.  NBC produced it with the Revue TV division of Universal Pictures (they were separate companies then) and started it in color as NBC was owner by TV manufacturer RCA, determined to have product to show off the hot new item of the day: color TVs. 


James Drury played the title character, living on the Shiloh Ranch in the late 1800s and helping out and working with those who live there (including Lee J. Cobb, Doug McClure, Gary Clarke and Roberta Shore) as the moral center of the area surrounded by good people (including Pippa Scott in a recurring role), bad people and interests near and abroad that may have other plans.  You get your murders, thieves, crooks, schemers and businessmen out to rob and pillage in any way they can.  Yes, it is the typical Western TV formula.


However, what distinguished it from other Westerns is the amount of ambition, production and larger scope of the episodes than most of the series made in the genre.  The teleplays may not be as memorable as some of the very best such series (Have Gun, Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Bonanza), but this is up there with The Big Valley as a solid A- level production.  Having not seen the show for literally decades, it was only somewhat memorable.  No fan of the genre, I was surprised how rich the show was and more so than I may have considered at the time.


The remarkable list of guest stars for this debut season include Bette Davis, Ida Lupino, Colleen Dewhurst, John Larch, Richard Bull. Hugh O’Brian, Parley Bear, Jack Warden, Ted Knight, Ricardo Montalban, Aldo Ray, Mickey Shaughnessy, Hal Needham, Robert Colbert, Jim McMullan, Eddie Albert, Tom Skerritt, Lee Marvin, Albert Salmi, Claude Akins, Charles Aidman, James Gregory, Brandon De Wilde, Alice Backes, Harold Gould, Byron Murrow, Woodrow Parfrey, Carol Lynley, Shirley Knight, Brian Keith, Geraldine Brooks, DeForest Kelley, Ben Johnson, Herb Vigran, Ben Wright, Ken Lynch, Tammy Grimes, Regis Toomey, Fabian, Charles McGraw, Nancy Sinatra, Robert Vaughn, Dana Wynter, Phyllis Avery, Gene Lyons, R.G. Armstrong, Barbara Barrie, J. Pat O’Malley, Ford Rainey, David Wayne, Nina Foch, Denver Pyle, Michael Rennie, Paul Sorensen, Robert Duvall, Don ‘Red’ Berry, Howard Duff, Joey Heatherton, Edward Asner, Grace Lee Whitney, Richard Anderson, Jocelyn Brando, Skip Homeier, Harry Morgan, Jeanette Nolan, Dolores Hart, Joe De Santis, Jeannine Riley, Alvy Moore, Ann Doran, Whit Bissell, Don Galloway and Bert Freed.


This tin box set (with a paperboard booklet holding 11 DVDs) includes all 30 episodes from the first season, including the 90-minutes-long telefilm pilot, a TV first.  You get your share of courtroom drama, all kinds of well-constructed & well decorated sets, gunfights, action and nice outdoor shooting.  The show simply did not make syndication in the long term after the 1970s and has been somewhat forgotten in the cannon of TV Westerns, but I don’t see why outside of the Western’s decline.  The genre has been somewhat revived for a while anyhow, so this set is long overdue.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot on 35mm film and the show was lucky enough to have gifted cameramen throughout its run.  Lionel London, Benjamin H. Kline and Russell Metty served as Director of Photography on most of the shows here.  Color is good, but we do get some softness here and there, plus a few print flaws, but this looks very good for its age and will surprise those who have not seen it for decades.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also not bad from show to show, but can be compressed and show its age.  Percy Faith did the theme song.  In combination, playback is usually good for the format.  Extras are interviews contained as all of the content of DVD 11, all new including Drury, Shore, Robert Fuller, Peter Brown and Guy Clark.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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